An Audiovisual Installation for Renaissance Claviers, Mobile and Light
by Caro Mikalef and Stephan Mathieu

Constellations was premiered in three sold out performances at the Planetarium of the CosmoCaixa New Science Museum in Barcelona, during SONAR 2010/ Festival Internacional de Música Avanzada y Arte Multimedia, on June 17, 18 and 19. 2010.

Watch the Constellations trailer
(MPEG-4 / 320x 240 / 160kbs / 5MB)

Watch a 3.30 minutes excerpt
(MPEG-4 / 640x 480 / 160kbs / 67MB)

Some photos from the installation at CAB Burgos, Spain


Antonio de Cabezón
Constellations is dedicated to the work of Antonio de Cabezón, Spanish Renaissance composer and organist whose 500 birthday is celebrated in 2010 (1510 – 26 March 1566). De Cabezón was the first major Iberian composer of keyboard music and one of the most influential of his time. His pieces were often based on astronomical aspects, this motivic approach to melodic writing produced intensely woven and unified works that relied mainly on augmentation and diminution of a basic idea for variation and development.

Constellations is a hybrid form of audiovisual installation and musical performance. Our interest is to create a special environment reflecting the perception of ‘audiovisual’ in the age of digital media, a focused and enveloping space for the audience. Taking the thought of a possible Renaissance as a starting point, we want to accomplish a new experience which is built upon historical knowledge.

The audio part of Constellations induces a dialogue between innovative contemporary and early music. The composition is performed with two Renaissance keyboard instruments, whereas one of them is played exclusively by using electromagnetic devices. The visual instance makes use of simple physical and kinetic effects of a large, purpose built Mobile, lighting and the position/perceptions of the observer.

Both, the audio and the visual features of Constellations stay out of digital realms explicitly, taking advantage of the spatial experience of the venue instead, of spectral light and materials as well as their physical and immaterial quality.

Constellations is based on Stephan Mathieu’s Virginals project, which deals with the idea of creating and performing innovative music with early instruments and obsolete media, as well as the interpretation of written music. Virginals is presented in festivals and solo shows worldwide.

For Constellations the composition is performed on two Renaissance Claviers. On a Harpsichord, early music specialist Carles Budó Costa plays special interpretations and meandering variations of original compositions by Antonio de Cabezón, while Caro Mikalef and Stephan Mathieu play additional voices on the Virginals, which strings are set in permanent vibration by seven Electromagnets. The constellations of the magnets, set against each other as they are moved across the strings, create rich changing overtone patterns which gradually fill up the space and drown out the Harpsichord part with a shimmering spectral disintegration of De Cabezóns music. Both Renaissance Claviers are located in the center of the performance space and are amplified through a historical 6-Channel Cinematic Loudspeaker System set up in a circle around the instruments. The audience is free to move within this space, to come close to the instruments and change position for an extraordinairy listening experience.

A large purpose built Mobile featuring optical lenses, mirrors, colour filters and metal discs spins slowly, suspended from the ceiling above the musical instruments, while it is lit by several focused spotlights which are controlled according to the audio events. In a result the different elements radiate subtle, permanently changing constellations of spectral light, colours, shadows and reflections on the spaces’ walls and ceiling.

The inspiration for the Mobile comes from the beauty of stochastic light events found in everyday life when sunlight meets reflecting objects like CDs, cars passing by or simply a puddle of water.
The collaboration with Carl Zeiss, pioneering makers of high quality optical equipment for film, photography and innovative research, adds a very special quality to this kinetic protagonist.

Constellations is open to a wide range of performance spaces, since its installative character we want to encourage organisers to think outside the classical music auditorium. We are especially interested in performing the piece in historical spaces as well as in special contemporary architetures.

Download Technical Rider
(.pdf / 6MB)


Please contact us with your ideas,
we are looking forward to hear from you.

Stephan Mathieu and Caro Mikalef
constellations @ bitsteam . de
June 30.2010


In Collaboration with
Carl Zeiss Jena
Institute of Technical Physics, Saarland University Saarbrücken
ICFO, Institute of Photonic Science Barcelona
Goethe Institute Barcelona
CosmoCaixa Obra Social Barcelona